Sánchez shelves personal ambitions for Gilbert in Flèche

Former Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez says that although he does not totally rule out any chance of personal glory on the Mur de Huy this afternoon, his main focus will be working for BMC team-mate Philippe Gilbert.

Twice a podium finisher in La Flèche Wallonne, Sánchez argues that in the mid-week Classic has a very simple format. “A lot of the race strategy for each team comes down to the last two kilometres and how strong you are feeling there individually, not before.”

“But Philippe is the leader and we’ll build our race around him. It’s a very different race to Amstel, you’ve got to base it all around the effort on that last climb and calculating your effort down to the last centimetre.”

He rules out a similar tactic, though, to Amstel, where he drew out the rivals prior to his team-mate Gilbert launching a final attack: “this is a very different race. In any case, if I attacked, they’d know it was me this time!” Rather than strategy, he says, “it’s a question of having the legs on the Mur.”

On a personal note, Sánchez says that he is thoroughly enjoying working so closely with Gilbert in the Belgian’s home terrain “because he never gets nervous. We’re in a very quiet hotel for all this week, so the pressure only really comes round in the races themselves.”

Even then, though, he says there is far less pressure after the Amstel Gold victory. “That and winning Brabançonne [Brabantse Pijl], two in less than a week, has really changed things. Now it’s up to our rivals to make the race, because they’re the ones that need a result.”

After Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Sánchez take a spell out of racing and eh will then head to the Giro d’Italia as a support rider for Cadel Evans. “The idea is to back him as best I can in the mountains, be the last man with him on the crucial stages and on a personal note I’m looking forward to [the three stages in] Ireland, too, I’ve never been there and I’ve heard great things about it.” After the Giro, as yet, his schedule remains undecided.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.